The Healer as Self
In the days of the ancient Greeks, healing retreats flourished throughout the Greco-Roman world. The central retreat and the one most remembered in history was at Epidaurus on the east coast of the Peloponnesian Peninsula. Epidaurus was a kind of Greek Lourdes: Pilgrims flocked to it from every part of the Mediterranean world, seeking health. When I visited Epidaurus in 1970 I walked among the ruins of the sacred groves reading stone tablets upon which cures, which appeared miraculous, were recorded so long ago.
Today’s internet speaks as follows of the primary ritual practiced at Epidaurus:
Afflicted people slept within a temple or sacred enclosure in the hope that the god would come to them in dreams and prescribe cures for their illnesses.
Here we can see the arrogance of the twentieth century ego, believing it can so easily explain the sacred mysteries and healing rituals of the Ancients. The physicians of Epidaurus were not as naive as scholars of this century have believed. From my own experience with healing rituals I see that what happened at Epidaurus and what drew people from all over the region was more like this:
People experiencing disease entered a time of ritual cleansing involving physical, psychological and psychic challenge. At the end of their days of cleansing they slept in a temple or sacred enclosure and invited a dream. The physician/priests often found that through the ritual cleansing their ‘patients’ had reawakened their relationship with unconscious and preconscious levels of Self. In this clearer psychic state they were often given dreams which brought the causative trauma to consciousness and often effected a cure. The priests and priestesses would be present to help them relate to what the dreams were revealing.
Over 2600 years have gone by since those stone tablets were put in place and it is time to acknowledge that the ancient Greeks were in touch with a healing art that has been lost during centuries of attempting to cure disease by treating it from the outside in. Healing, if it is to be lasting, must happen from the inside out. To be ‘cured’ we must be so acquainted with the nature of our own imbalance that we no longer need or want to perpetuate it. That is why the ancients fasted and put themselves through rituals of silence, prayer and ceremony; that is why they learned to listen to the dreamtime.
Yes, it takes time and patience to get to know ourselves to the point where we pilot our own destiny and determine our state of health, but is it not wiser to invest the time and discipline NOW than to apply band-aid solutions day after day, lifetime after lifetime, living all the while at less than optimum levels of health and energy?
What we call disease is a statement of imbalance in the psyche. The body tells a story, but the stories are seldom understood because most human beings have forgotten how to listen.
Last month twenty-one people experienced an eight day retreat right here in Kamloops, a ritual similar to what must have happened at Epidaurus over two millennia ago, a ritual which included physical, psychological and mental challenge – ritual walks, sweat lodge, fasting, times of silence and vision questing. We dreamt healing dreams and we listened to guidance from the unconscious and preconscious levels of Self. Human beings of the twentieth century are beginning to recognize the importance of such challenges to the ego. We are looking toward truths beyond the ego and remembering once again that our Wholeness is not dependent on some thing or some one outside of ourselves, but upon our relationship with Self and our healthy attunement with Life.